Lights Out for Lightning Bugs, June 24-30:
As we approach another summer and the 11th firefly season for the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival, the organizers along with our partners US Army Corps of Engineers Tionesta Lake, and Pittsburgh Dark Skies Association want to remind the residents and campers in Forest County and the Allegheny National Forest region that we have something unique and precious in our area that deserves our attention, respect and protection. The firefly is our State’s official insect and here’s something simple and easy you can all do to help fireflies (aka Lightning Bugs) directly. We encourage everyone in Forest County, and for that matter, across Pennsylvania to take part in the “Lights Out for Lightning Bugs” campaign.
Scientists believe that the world is losing firefly populations, and one reason is simply light pollution referred to as Artificial Light At Night (ALAN). It may not be surprising to imagine that fireflies are especially prone to the impacts of artificial light pollution. Researchers like Avalon Owens, Ph.D. from Tufts University have found concerning and compelling evidence that light of any color essentially shuts down the flashing replies of females to attract their mate. If fireflies are blinded by lights (especially white and amber lights) or their flashes are overpowered by the extensive and prolonged light intrusion, they cannot find a mate and thereby, the next generation is lost.
So, help the fireflies and lightning bugs in your yard find each other. Turn off or shade your porch and outside lights, at least for the week of Saturday, June 24 through Friday, June 30. You may even discover you can keep them off through the end of summer, or at least put them on a timer or motion detector, so they don’t burn all night.
illustration by P. Butler, 2021
Artificial Light At Night (ALAN) not only impacts fireflies; it also impacts other nocturnal animals like moths, birds, bats and reptiles. There are also studies that suggest the natural sleep/wake cycles of human beings are also disrupted by the use of artificial lights and screens. Poor sleep leads to more health and wellness issues. So, we need to let our eyes and brains experience more darkness. We need to get more comfortable with and embrace the darkness. Allow yourself to experience a truly dark night this summer. Turn out the lights, sit on your porch or around a dim glowing campfire. Let your eyes adjust and you’ll be amazed by what you can see. You may even see a spectacular firefly show.